Making news

Heritages prove to be driver of Hanoi’s tourism development

In recent years, Hanoi has established itself as a magnet for visitors from both across the country and around the world, a status the city has achieved largely by bringing into play its long-standing heritages.

The over-1,000-year-old city is currently home to more than 5,920 relic sites, ranging from historical, artchitectural – artistic and archaeological to landscapes, including 13 listed as special national relic sites. Notably, it boasts one UNESCO-recognised world heritage site (Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long), two on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (Giong Festival of Phu Dong and Soc temples, and the sitting tug-of-war games and rituals at Tran Vu Temple), along with one on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding (ca tru singing).

Being well aware of the value of local heritages, municipal authorities have been looking to tap these advantages.

Efforts to boost heritage-based tourism

An initiative to bring the old Hanoi closer to visitors and local residents is the pedestrian zone around Hoan Kiem Lake that is open every weekend from Friday night to Sunday night.

Debuting in 2016, the promenade around Hoan Kiem Lake, also known as Guom (Sword) Lake – a symbol of Hanoi and a special national relic site, has become an ideal space for people to take a stroll and enjoy the body of water reflecting the blue sky and dense green foliage that surround it.

Additionally, the zone has also served as a venue for hundreds of cultural and sporting activities over the last three years. Authorities have maintained seven sites for regular cultural performances in the zone. The municipal Department of Culture and Sports and the Hoan Kiem district People’s Committee have also invited other localities from across Vietnam and foreign artists to organise cultural activities and events in the zone.

The northernmost province of Ha Giang has introduced its Mong ethnic culture; the central province of Quang Binh has promoted its cultural and tourist attractions, the central province of Quang Nam has offered Hanoians and visitors a glance of its own heritages; and Ben Tre province has given audiences a taste of “don ca tai tu” melodies from the southern region, to name but a few.

Various foreign events have also attracted people to the pedestrian zone such as the Japanese culture days and cherry blossom festivals, the celebration of the 25th founding anniversary of Vietnam-Republic of Korea diplomatic ties, the ASEAN children’s festival, and the European Village programme.

According to the Hoan Kiem People’s Committee, the pedestrian space attracts some 3,000 – 5,000 visitors a day and 15,000 – 20,000 in the evening on average. Notably, the figure rises sharply during holidays.

In the adjacent pedestrian streets in the Old Quarter – a must-see destination in Hanoi, a night market is also opened at weekends, selling a wide range of items from handicrafts and souvenirs to food, including local delicacies. Folk arts are also performed every Saturday night like cheo (traditional opera), xam (blind busker singing), quan ho (love duet singing) and ca tru (ceremonial singing).

Another highlight in the efforts to introduce the best of the old Hanoi is the hop on – hop off city tour.

Launched in 2018, the tour uses open top double-decker buses to show tourists some of the city’s most famous relic sites, including Hoan Kiem Lake, St. Joseph’s Cathedral, the Flag Tower of Hanoi, President Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, the Temple of Literature, and the Hanoi Opera House.

Sightseers can hop off at any stop to explore further, and then hop back on the next bus to continue their tour.

Nguyen Viet Hung, deputy director of the Hanoi Transportation Corporation’s Yen Vien bus company – the tour operator, said a year since the tour was launched, the number of travellers, both Vietnamese and foreigners, using the service has increased month by month.

“They are very excited about this service,” he noted.

There is also another way to explore the heritage sites and beautiful landscapes of the Vietnamese capital – taking part in the Hanoi Heritage International Marathon.

The route traverses some of the most renowned places of interest such as Hoan Kiem Lake, the Hanoi Opera House, West Lake, Long Bien Birdge, the Flag Tower of Hanoi, the Temple of Literature and Tran Quoc Pagoda, giving participants a memorable experience of the history, culture and life in the city.

Compared to the first event held in 2018 with 3,000 athletes, this year’s race in October drew more than 7,000 runners, including over 1,500 foreigners.

The marathon is now listed as an official event by the Vietnam Athletics Federation and also a member of the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races.

Director of the municipal Department of Culture and Sports To Van Dong said in 2019, the event has become an official international marathon, turning the city into a destination for the world’s marathon runners. Through the race, the organising board wishes to create a symbolic sporting event for the city and popularise local tourism to international friends.

Cooperation with foreign partners

In an effort to promote Hanoi far and wide, authorities have also been boosting ties with foreign partners.

The city has been coordinating with the US’ Cable News Network (CNN) to promote its image through short advertising clips. After the cooperation deal for 2018 – 2019 concluded, it signed a new one with CNN for 2019 – 2024.

According to the local Tourism Department, the promotion programmes and clips produced and broadcast by CNN such as “Hanoi – Cradle of Heritage” and “Hanoi – Heart of Vietnam” have attracted attention from viewers.

Connections with other foreign agencies like the BBC (the UK), The Wall Street Journal (the US), Euromonitor and TripAdvisor have also been sustained to support tourism promotion.

The city is currently a member of the Council for Promoting Tourism in Asia and the Tourism Promotion Organisation for Asia Pacific Cities. It also has close tourism partnerships with many cities across Asia such as Tokyo (Japan), Seoul (the Republic of Korea), Bangkok (Thailand), and Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), along with big cities in Europe like the Ile de France region (France), Moscow (Russia), and Frankfurt (Germany).

Director of the municipal Tourism Department Tran Duc Hai said cooperation with foreign partners has greatly helped to build an increasingly beautiful and attractive image of Hanoi in foreign travellers’ eyes and establish the city as a safe, charming and hospitable destination.

In the future, it will continue to enhance external relations to give foreign friends an insight into the millennium-old city – the City for Peace, he added.

Promotion efforts paid off

Statistics from the tourism authority show that about 2.51 million travellers chose Hanoi as their destination in November, rising 12.2 percent year on year. They included more than 699,000 foreigners and nearly 1.81 million Vietnamese, up 19 percent and 9.8 percent, respectively. Total revenue from tourism was estimated at nearly 9.29 trillion VND (402.2 million USD), up 34.1 percent from a year earlier.

During the first 11 months, the city recorded a year-on-year increase of 9.9 percent in tourist arrivals to about 26.34 million, including over 6 million foreigners and 20.31 million domestic visitors. Tourism revenue rose 31.6 percent from the same period last year to some 92.45 trillion VND.

Hanoi posted an annual growth of around 19 percent in the number of foreign visitors between 2015 and 2018.

The department said foreign tourists in the city came from more than 190 countries and territories, which is an encouraging sign showing Hanoi has left a good impression on people around the world.

Chairman of the Hanoi Tourism Association Nguyen Manh Than noted the capital city is not only one of the biggest tourism hubs in Vietnam but has also gained an increasingly firm foothold in the world. Many foreign visitors prefer Hanoi since it boasts not only beautiful landscapes and long-standing culture and history, but has also proved itself to be a safe and friendly destination.

Over the years, many prestigious international organisations have listed Hanoi among the most attractive places in the region and the world.

In 2018, it was selected as “Asia’s Leading Destination” and one of the 17 “World’s Leading Destinations” at the World Travel Awards.

This year, Hanoi won the Travellers’ Choice Awards with fourth place among the top 25 destinations in Asia and 15th position among the world’s best 25 places on the TripAdvisor website.

Meanwhile, the Mastercard Asia Pacific Destinations Index gave Hanoi 15th place among the top 20 destinations in the region.

CNN listed Hanoi, along with Phu Quoc Island in the southern province of Kien Giang, as among the best places to visit in Asia in 2019.

Many highlights of the city were also named in a CNN article suggesting 13 essential Vietnam experiences such as “search for the best pho in Hanoi”, “make vermicelli noodles in Cu Da village”, and “ride the Reunification Express (officially known as the Noth-South Railway)”.

Tourism Department Director Hai said tourism has gradually established itself as a spearhead economic sector for the city, adding that with unceasing efforts, Hanoi will continue to reinforce its role as one of the leading localities for tourism development in Vietnam.